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There’s a 3rd year class studying conditions in the textile mills during the Industrial Revolution. They’re looking into working hours, food, pollution, punishments, accidents, workhouse children, scavengers and the kinds of work done, as well as how Robert Owen’s mills were run different to the norm. We’re asking them to identify primary and secondary sources as they go along so there’s a fair bit of archaic language about.

Seems straightforward but you never know what will come up. For example, one pupil suddenly bursts into hysterics. As we try to calm him down, he bursts out,

But, Miss, it says here that children were beaten with thongs!

So while the hysteria spreads round the class, the teacher and I try to calm things and she explains that it’s just an old-fashioned word.

It’s not what you’re thinking, says the teacher, who’s trying hard not to use any words that will cause further mayhem . It’s made of leather.

And as anarchy reaches new levels, we decide that wasn’t perhaps the best place to start.

Eventually, I manage to make the meaning clear, but it sure makes them focus as they search for new and interesting uses of the English language.

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